Close-up and personal
Shooting Times & Country|September 23, 2020
Close-up and personal
Pulling off the perfect shot at a deer that is only yards away is quite a challenge. Graham Downing explains how to improve your chances
Graham Downing

I dropped my companion off in the dark with clear instructions on how to find the high seat, which was just a couple of hundred yards away and covering a long ride that ran through the centre of the wood.

“I haven’t shot this wood since May, so there should be something there for you,” I whispered as he disappeared into the early-morning gloom. I picked him up some two-and a-half hours later. I had not heard a shot but was not surprised to hear that he had indeed seen a muntjac buck.

“The problem was that it stepped out on to the ride 10 yards in front of the high seat and it saw me.” My friend had remained still while the buck eyeballed him, but lifted his rifle as soon as it put its head down to browse. The animal must have seen the movement in its peripheral vision and did the obvious thing, scarpering into heavy cover on the other side of the ride with its white tail raised in alarm.

Close encounters with deer — usually muntjac or Chinese water deer — are pretty regular occurrences for me when I am in a high seat. They exercise my hunting skills every bit as much as those animals that I see and engage at long range. Indeed, I think that there is as much of a challenge in making a successful shot at a deer that is inside of 25 yards as at one 10 times that distance away.

As a prey species, deer have well tuned senses to guard them against predators. Their sense of smell is far better than ours and, as every hill stalker knows, a deer can and will detect an approaching hunter several hundred yards upwind of it.

Their hearing is excellent and, in the stillness of a wood at dawn or dusk, the slightest sound of breaking twig or rustling leaf will immediately put them on the alert. Their eyesight is probably no better than ours and, with the assistance of modern optics, the hunter has the edge, but they are masters at detecting movement.

Scenting danger

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September 23, 2020